It’s Good To Have You Back, Lara Croft
Elizabeth DeLoria celebrates Lara Croft, past and present.
I remember Lara Croft. I was 8 years old and I thought she was, for a lack of better term, the shit — and I didn't even really understand how to play Tomb Raider.
I'd run around for hours with Lara, making her flip about, volley off walls, shoot at birds and dive from buildings only to escape unscathed. She'd masterfully balance over tightropes and swim down into the darkness with onto the light of a glow stick to guide her, her breath held for as long as the little bar on the screen would allow her. Lara could leap across ravines and backflip over traps with the expertise of a star athlete, and could haul ass carrying a priceless ancient artifact with the urgency of Indiana Jones himself.
Yet, I was 8, and I don't think I was really mature enough to be playing Tomb Raider just yet. God bless my parents for disregarding classifications and age warnings, lest I miss out on the many games that shaped me as a person, but I was terrified of anything that even looked like it wanted to hurt me. I'd run from the attack dogs and as much as I tried to shoot them to make them stop, my petrified little hands couldn't aim my pistols well enough. I'd do just about anything if it meant sneaking around any guards or thugs that might be watching me and one time I shut off my PlayStation because I was mortified that a small swarm of bees could actually kill Lara. I later learned this swarm of bees was actually fire, but I digress.
Without having shot a goddamn thing or even play the game properly, I loved Lara Croft. I'd play the tutorial levels for hours on end just to watch her effortlessly overcome just about any physical obstacle in front of her, and when my father pointed out there was an actual game beyond the tutorial I responded with a 'so?' I wanted to be Lara Croft, I wanted to be agile and strong and be able to carry what seemed like an infinite amount of glow sticks in what I'm assuming was my boots. I was 8 years old and Lara was one of the few women in games at the time who appealed to me to the point where I had a glimmer of something to look up to.
Needless to say, despite my waning interest in the Tomb Raider games and my realization that Lara's sex appeal was often made out to be her most redeeming feature, I never really stopped liking her. Sure, Tomb Raider: Underworld was lukewarm and the movie was bad even by video game to film adaptation standards, but even when people presented Lara Croft as an example of 'more bust than brains' (please, she's like if Indiana Jones and Batman had a baby,) I still harked back to the days of walking over a tightrope and wishing I could actually be her.
Then E3 2012 happened.
I was probably one of the more vocal in my expression of concern for what Lara would be 'rebooted' as. Sexual assault? A 'cornered animal?' I may not have played Tomb Raider ‘properly’ but I knew that Lara Croft was very rarely, if never, a victim or a damsel in distress. I certainly couldn't recall Lara Croft needing rescuing like Princess Peach or Princess Zelda, and I really, really didn't want to wind up associating a happy childhood memory with sexual assault. I'm not going to lie and I'm not going to skirt around it: I was a little scared. I was scared that I was going to see a childhood figure go down the same path as Samus in that horrible Metroid revival. I was hoping that Lara would empower, but I had a sinking feeling that it would be another ‘love story’ dressed up as an adventure.